“Slavery’s Legacies, Slavery’s Futures: New Horizons of the Study of Slavery,” Slavery & Abolition 41, no. 4 (Fall 2020): 856–63; review of Yogita Goyal, Runaway Genres, Laura T. Murphy, The New Slave Narrative, and Janet Neary, Fugitive Testimony

Scholars are beginning to catch up with the enormous wave of popular attention that human rights advocates and contemporary Black artists have brought to modern and nineteenth-century slavery over the last three decades. Three scholars in particular — Janet Neary, Laura T. Murphy, and Yogita Goyal — have recently published monographs that map out the key relationships and nodes that link slavery’s contemporary reception, representation, and reimagining. Though more different than alike, they all share a concern with the African American autobiographical slave narrative genre epitomized by Equiano, Douglass, and Jacobs. In Fugitive Testimony, Neary treats contemporary Black visual artists’ engagement with the slave narrative as an occasion to launch an inquiry into the decolonizing visual techniques of the slave narrative, devised by ex-slave narrators to interrupt and potentially dismantle the racializing gaze. In The New Slave Narrative, the first longform study of the recent reemergence of the slave narrative, Murphy constructs an archive of “first-person narratives of forced labor,” considers their relationship with the antebellum slave narrative, and brilliantly excavates the formal and moral expectations that these narrators write under, often due to the strong hand of supporting humanitarian organizations. Finally, Goyal’s Runaway Genres draws new routes between global Anglophone and African American literary studies in considering “what happens when the slave narrative goes global.” While independently important as scholarly contributions, these works collectively demonstrate the importance of unsettling disciplinary boundaries, while even more excitingly sketching out the potential for a new field altogether.